Tuesday 30 June 2020

Article - Rainbow Rasa

Narthaki is delighted to share the voices of three artistes who speak from the heart about their dance and their life choices.

- Gerard Samuel, Professor of Dance, University of Cape Town and the very first Tamil/"Black" professional Ballet dancer in South Africa

- Kiran Rajagopalan, Bharatanatyam dancer from New York City

- Cameron Shanolin Govender, a makeup artiste and Bharatanatyam dancer in Durban, South Africa

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Monday 29 June 2020

An audio-video-choreo trio - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Among the plethora of online products let loose in the current depressing situation of enforced isolation and solitude, Within... from Within stands out with its excellence. Produced by Aditi Mangaldas and Drishtikon Foundation - well known for their prowess in innovative Kathak - in collaboration with Raw Mango and #ArtMatters / Teamwork Arts, versatility is writ large on every frame of the production, both in terms of choreographic imagination and the brilliance of the audio-visual technology at the dancers' disposal. Brought out in a highly laudatory effort of fund-raising for distressed artistes, the outcome is entirely satisfactory both from aesthetic as well as technical points of view.

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Friday 26 June 2020

Book Review - 'Mohiniyattam: Its Art and Aesthetics' by Bharati Shivaji - Dr. Sunil Kothari

Shubhi Publications, 479, Sector 14, Gurugram 122 001, Haryana, India
Revised Edition 2020 / Price not stated
Foreword by Kamala Devi Chattopadhyay, Photos by Avinash Pasricha

The present volume on 'Mohiniyattam: Its Art and Aesthetics' by Bharati Shivaji, a celebrated exponent of Mohini Attam, takes the reader to those early years when there were no takers for this dance form of Kerala. At the suggestion of Kamala Devi, Bharati undertook not only rigorous training in Mohini Attam (I prefer to spell it as Mohini Attam instead Mohiniyattam) but also did extensive research by visiting various parts of Kerala and contributed to the revival and further exposure to this near extinct dance form. Kamala Devi arranged for a financial grant for this project from the Sangeet Natak Akademi.

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Thursday 25 June 2020

Article - Sanctity of the term 'Guru' in Sattriya parlance - Meenakshi Medhi

Some profound moments in life make you think and introspect. During one of my performances, the organizers added the prefix Guru to my name in the banners and invites; it somehow did not feel right and upsets me till today. Many a time, I have also been asked by my students why they should not address me as a Guru. I never had a definitive answer. I feel that the word Guru has great sanctity. It also may have stemmed from my experience with all the great exponents of the dance forms. I have not seen anyone address himself as a Guru.

The thought remained with me and hence the first thing I did was Google. I was not satisfied and hence I referred to my Adhyapak and elders who had a deep-rooted link to our Sattriya tradition and the revered scriptures that we as practitioners follow. After a lot of discussions, deliberations and reading a lot of texts, here is what I could come up with for my justification to be called an Adhyapika.

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Sunday 21 June 2020

Prism - Six and a half decades on the stage - G Venu

Let me look back upon some memorable milestones during my pursuit of the arts that has lasted around six and a half decades.  Hopefully, the insights gathered from everything that I had experienced, seen, watched and heard, on the stage, on the back stage and in front of the stage, both within Kerala and outside, may turn out to be useful for those who are setting out on the same path as this.  My life in the arts was a free flowing journey. The journey that took me from Kathakali to Kutiyattam was the pursuit of a whole decade.

It makes me feel extremely proud and fulfilled to realise that Kutiyattam, in the revival of which I had played an active role right from 1976, had gained the recognition of the UNESCO in 2001 followed by Mudiyettu (in 2010),  another art form with which I was involved from 1997.  The realisation that these recognitions are the result of my own efforts also makes me feel tremendously pleased.

Recognising my passion to learn Kathakali, my father had started a Kalari at village in 1956. Four students other than me were also being trained in that Kalari. All the expenses of the Kalari were borne by my father who was not a rich man. We were living in a rented house at that time.

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Friday 19 June 2020

Interactions and virtual Spic Macay Convention a unique experience - II - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Most dancers seem to combine the gift of silver tongued speakers. With guru- shishya being the main title of Spic Macay's Anubhav, Padma Subrahmanyam touched on many issues, including answering a question by a student on how mudra was different from Karanas! She spoke of her dance based on her Natya Sastra research as a 'revival with the Desi'. But one particularly appreciated her emphasis on the importance for dance aspirants of watching acclaimed dancers in action. As a junior, she mentioned just sitting in the class for hours as the seniors performed. Very important, considering how young dancers today want only to be seen on the stage performing and watching does not come easy for all.

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Interactions and virtual Spic Macay Convention a unique experience - I - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

It was a fateful day in the 1970's when Kiran Seth, a student at Columbia University went "more to see" the concert of Dagar brothers Hameenuddin and Fareeduddin in New York's Brooklyn University, the experience turning out to be what he himself calls the 'Black box'. He went in and much later walked out, feet above the ground, not aware of what had hit him inside so intensely. "If I could have such an experience, it could happen to others too," he decided. And the idea of Spic Macay was born! After a stint as Mechanical Engineer and working with Bel Labs, the first earnest effort in India, to emulate the New York experience by inviting the Dagar Brothers had about ten people attending with five walking out! The first lec-dem effort at Delhi School of Economics in 1978 with the most acclaimed of artistes of music and dance involved, did not fare much better. But with the never-say-die persistence, helped by a handful of like-minded persons, not to speak of obliging artistes, today's colossus of Spic Macay stands as an exemplary instance of voluntary effort, enabling the exposure of young minds in the country to the best of India's culture and heritage.

With all live programming cut by the pandemic crisis, the ever striving Spic Macay team put together a bouquet of select recorded programmes of acclaimed artistes, supplemented by live interactions with them on the internet. Predictably, for volunteers not used to this medium, there were glitches in melding interactive live sessions with the recorded programmes and being able to provide timely links to interested persons. Despite all the drawbacks, the week turned out to be an unusually riveting experience.

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Tuesday 16 June 2020

Article - Dear Dance - A humble note - Payel Chatterjee

My journey in dance dates back to a time when I was introduced to it as a kid by my neighbour in Kolkata. Looking back, I often reminisce about little snapshots of memories of the times that were. I often recall an incident from my first dance recital, where I ran away from stage because I was intimidated by the stage lights. When I began to receive training in Bharatnatyam under the guidance of acharya Rumela Chatterjee, there was something that I started liking about dance, deeply and madly. But, at that time I did not realize what it meant. Slowly, the pressure of academia started kicking in and I knew, somewhere, I had to take a call. After my under-graduation, I decided to pursue PhD in Biological Sciences and moved to Bangalore.

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Sunday 14 June 2020

Pioneers of Corona Creativity: Dance Films on Poetry of Hard Times, Methil Devika, Shovana Narayan and Sangeeta Chatterjee - Soch: Column by Dr. Arshiya Sethi

At a time when the domain of the arts is reeling with the economic impact of Corona and its devastation of livelihoods, the other buzz is around the'' creativity that has not ceased to pour out from the creative sector. Not just are artists being unusually deft at using technology to stay united, in conversations and 'guftagu', living up to Sardar Jafri's hope in the nazm 'Guftagu' band' na ho', but they are coming up with amazing creativity, in the form of online concerts, and very interestingly dance films on poetry of hard times. I must take a moment to mention here that there are some very effective music videos that have been made at this time as well, but I write here only on dance videos.

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Saturday 13 June 2020

Article - Mental health and well-being in classical dance - An inquiry - Ramaa Venugopalan

A recent article in a world dance magazine addressed the mental health of dancers in ballet companies. The counsellor revealed key points that hinder the mental well-being of dancers through their training years. The article had a deep impact on me, and I could not resist from a similar inquiry into the world of Indian classical dance.

Are we classical dancers living in a mental sphere of happiness or anxiety? What are the factors that make up this health index? Are we assessing our mental and emotional well-being? Most importantly, are we dancers truly happy? Warped in layers of perceived notions of divinity, adherence, non-questionable notions, unspoken rules, dancers are so caught in multiple layers of agony that an inquiry into the mental well-being has been rarely assessed.

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Thursday 11 June 2020

Interview - Vanashree Rao: I like powerful stories - Shveta Arora

Vanashree Rao is a Kuchipudi dancer/teacher who has come into her own again through Rasa United, a collaboration between Kuchipudi, Bharatanatyam and Chhau, with Dr. S. Vasudevan bringing the Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music expertise and Kuleshwar Kumar Thakur providing the Chhau expertise and dancers. Over the past few years, the group led by Vanashree Rao, has staged impressive, action packed productions depicting dramatic mythological episodes. Their productions include Dramatic Tales, Abhimanyu Vadh and the latest, Tryambakam, which is centred on Shiva and depicts three aspects of the godhead - aghori, ardhanarishwara and kirat, but it also had other connotations. Three gurus from three dance forms presented the tales, and the choreography and music seamlessly amalgamated all three forms till it became one memorable experience. In an enjoyable and colourful conversation this past winter with Vanashree and Dr. S. Vasudevan, she spoke about her journey in dance and in life, and how they brought her to a point where she realized her creative vision through Rasa United.

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Tuesday 9 June 2020

Article - Indian dance: From real to virtual - Rashika Ojha

Covid-19 situation... It's a strange feeling. Life is moving, yet it is still...

A still movement, where you are not mobile, yet your idea and intention travels. When I asked Jaya C Mehta, an Odissi dancer from Delhi, about her lockdown trials, she unveiled, "I would like to see how my ideas of beauty and silence, can be shared on digital platforms as a kind of antidote to the stress of today's times."

For a dancer practicing Indian classical dance, the journey from an idea to the form is not an independent journey; instead it's a collaborative journey which you tread painstakingly. For this, you need to work in coordination with others like the orchestra and sometimes mentors for feedback and direction to co-exist in the world of "performance syndrome" (a term I borrow from Leela Venkatraman, a renowned dance scholar and critic).

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O for Omg! - Dance Matters: Column by Ashish Mohan Khokar

Continuing my vowel movement, we reach O.

OMG! That's what O has come to represent today, most. OMG indeed for the sheer survival skills of dancers, especially the FB-fittest lot, Darwin be damned! What did he know of internet era and sheer need for virtual presence or desperation in times of karo-na!?

Lockdown period gave new challenges too.

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Saturday 6 June 2020

At last a discussion on 'Economies of Performing Arts' - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

The economic situation of performing artists seems to be a subject which has never engaged the attention of economic planners of present day India. So it was a most pleasantly surprising move to have the IGNCA's Kaladarshan host a Webinar discussion on 'Economies of Performing Arts' - 'to strategize recommendations' for helping this part of our artist population so badly hit by the Covid crisis that some of them face the peril of ceasing to be, unless provided immediate support. The panellists in the discussion were Dr. Sonal Mansingh (member, Rajya Sabha), with Bansi Kaul (Theatre director and visualiser), Viraf Sarkari (co-founder and director, Wizcraft International), Arjun Pandey (founder of Delhi Pedia), and Albert Almeida (COO, Live Entertainment, Book My Show). Dr. Sachchidanand Joshi, Member Secretary, IGNCA, was the moderator.

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Going viral, Going global: An artistic response to the challenges in the times of Corona - Soch: Column by Dr. Arshiya Sethi

In one of my earlier columns titled 'With "a lover's smile": Strengthening resolve in the times of Corona', that came out on April 25, 2020 , I had talked about how the arts were capable of carrying even difficult messages, because they charmed, like a "lover's smile". I pegged the column on an enactment of a poem, in dance, by Kathak dancer and data analyst Mrinalini, on the conditions we were facing during the times of Corona. It effectively told us of the constraints to our lives in the 'stay at home' circumstances, the protocols we had to follow of washing hands, sanitizing, physical distancing and reminding us of our social responsibilities, even while kindling a flame of hope. It was based on a powerful Hindi poem by Kuldeep Mishra. This reached us in a digital format and being on social media it is in a way immortalised and will always be there for reference. While in this column I was excited that this artistic piece had been picked up to be part of a news show, the column that I write today, takes off from Mrinalini's effort but takes us to a local artistic response that became a global endeavour with dancers, young and old, senior and junior, freshers and icons, Indian and international, coming together to mark the challenges in the times of Corona, and the only way forward.

It was sent to me very tentatively by Delhi based dance photographer, Innee Singh. Innee's real and formal name is Indirpal Singh. But I can assure you no one knows him by his full name. Innee is an unusual but winning mix of shy and friendly. For those who have got used to the brilliant photo-lens signature of the legendary Avinash Pasricha's work in dance photography, you may have noticed that there are nowadays some photographs, particularly of the younger generation dancers, that don't follow Avinash-ji's lines. If you have seen them, you would have noticed it. And if you have noticed them, then there is a strong possibility that they are the work of Innee Singh.

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Thursday 4 June 2020

Profile - Vedantam Raghava: A dancer personified - Aparna Dhulipalla

Who is a dancer? Is dancing gracefully to the rhythm with appropriate abhinaya enough for one to be called a dancer? Maybe in today's parlance.

The various treatises on dance, apart from the physical attributes, define the qualities of a dancer as a person who is learned, who speaks sweetly, is eloquent, confident, of sweet voice, well versed in geeta - vaadya and above all learned in shastras / treatises on arts. Abhinaya Darpana of Nandikeswara defines these qualities of a Nata / Nartaka (actor / dancer). One may think that such people can only be found in theory or in textbook definitions, but one would be surprised to know that there are living examples of "dancers" who possess the defined qualities.

This writer was fortunate to meet, interact and know about one such versatile Kuchipudi exponent Vedantam Venkata Rama Raghavayya, popularly known as Vedantam Raghava. Raghava hails from the Kuchipudi village of Krishna District in Andhra Pradesh. He is the elder child of Vedantam Rattaiah Sarma and Rajyalakshmi, belonging to the 'Vedantam' family - one of the hereditary Brahmin families of the Kuchipudi village.

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Monday 1 June 2020

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - June 2020

Anita says...June 2020

In a city closed down
I hear rain before it falls
Birds gather under awnings
I throw open windows
Let words move
Living in wind and wings
Enter my heart!
Clean my sorrow!
You that are
Buried beneath tears
Please sing me back to joy
- Laura Simms, Poet

Wait! What day is it?
What? It’s June 1?
How many of you are feeling like this? Hours and days blurring into one another, eyes red with too much peering into our phones and screens, fingers sore from swiping this way and that, mind scampering like a monkey on a compound wall…

We are already into the half way mark into a year that will go down in our lives when the world changed. Forever? Well, that is what the experts say. Through the window I notice that my mango trees have borne the best crop in a decade. The annual hair oil, pickle and pappad making rituals are in motion. I sit on my faithful swing as my thoughts re-arrange themselves to be shared with all of you.

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